Summer International Film Festival

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With the Summer International Film Festival underway, artistic director Li Cheuk-to and curator Jacob Wong talk to Ben Sin about their highlights of the fest

Two years ago, when Hong Kong International Film Festival artistic director Li Cheuk-to secured the rights to screen Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami's acclaimed existential drama Certified Copy at the 2011 HKIFF, Li invited Kiarostami to make a personal appearance at the festival. Kiarostami accepted without a moment's hesitation.

But then the tragic Tohoku earthquake and tsunami struck Japan in March 2011, just a week before the HKIFF kicked off. Kiarostami was in Tokyo at the time of the earthquake, and though he was unhurt, the incident left him stranded and unable to make it to Hong Kong.

This past May, the filmmaker finally visited Hong Kong for Art Basel, and Li was also in attendance. "When I spotted Kiarostami, I told myself, 'I'm not letting this opportunity slip again'," recalls Li. "I approached him and talked to him about doing something with the HKIFF."

The result? A special programme at this year's Summer International Film Festival with five of Kiarostami's most-loved films, including Where Is the Friend's Home?, And Life Goes On, Through the Olive Trees, Taste of Cherry and The Wind Will Carry Us. The Kiarostami programme is one of numerous highlights at this eighth edition of the Summer IFF, which features 21 films from nine countries, including Woody Allen's critically acclaimed drama Blue Jasmine, hailed as one of the director's best films, and a retrospective of works by Japanese director Oshima Nagisa, who passed away earlier this year. There's also a section dedicated to Japansese comedies, most notably Ichii Masahide's hit Blindly in Love.With so many top films to choose from, we get the inside word on a few highlights from Li and festival curator Jacob Wong.

Li Cheuk-to recommends:

Montage

Korean thrillers never cease to surprise. Montage follows the traditions exemplified by Old Boy and The Chaser, with ingenious plot twists and strong performances. A late addition to the Summer HKIFF, and one not to be missed. Aug 23 & 26, 7.30pm, Hong Kong Science Museum Lecture Hall.

Top of the Lake (Part I/II)

Jane Campion's first venture into miniseries reminds one of David Lynch's legendary Twin Peaks. This superb crime drama makes great use of its stunning New Zealand setting. A rare selection for Sundance, Berlin and Cannes in the same year. Aug 24, 25, 7.30pm, Hong Kong Science Museum Lecture Hall.

Chronicle of a Summer
A seminal documentary in the history of cinema and a pioneering work of cinéma vérité, Chronicle of a Summer was restored to its full glory under the supervision of its main cinematographer, Michel Brault, 50 years after it won the International Federation of Film Critics Prize at Cannes in 1961. Aug 25, 7.30pm; Aug 31, 2.30pm, Hong Kong Arts Centre.


Jacob Wong recommends:

The Stone Roses: Made of Stone
Shane Meadows' dynamic documentary about the 2012 reunion of the Stone Roses is a heartfelt tribute to the band, made by a great fan as an act of love. It's all about their music, and John Squire's solo at Heaton Park brings the film to a close on a freaky high note. Aug 19 & 23, 9.45pm, UA Langham Place.

The Punk Syndrome
If Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki was to make a documentary follow-up to his Leningrad Cowboys films, he could very well have picked Helsinki punk band Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät as the subject. The quartet is made up of an autistic pair and a duo affected by Down's syndrome – four wild men who are dead serious about their music. Destined to become the most open-hearted film about the world of punk. Aug 22, 7.30pm & Aug 25, 9.30pm, Hong Kong Arts Centre.

The Red Obsession

In the world of wine, the Chinese nouveau riche go to the legendary Bordeaux region to shop – by the bottle, the crate and the vineyard. Is it a display of power, a passion for the finer things in life, a bubble ready to burst or a sign of the decline of the West in times of change? This documentary, narrated by Russell Crowe, aims to find out. Aug 16, 7.45pm, UA Langham Place & Aug 19, 7.30pm, Hong Kong Arts Centre.

Summer International Film Festival Until Tue Aug 27. For full programme and ticketing details, visit hkiff.org.

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